On Wednesday afternoon after his eighth win at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch washed the champagne from his clothes and started to pack for Richmond International Raceway, where this weekend he'll be racing for his ninth RIR victory and hoping for his third in a row.
But first, he called in to ESPN.com to discuss making history, stealing wins, his growing fan base and pressing the flesh with politicians in a Q&A.
We were up there for the American Motorsports Council, spending time with some congressmen, telling stories and taking photos. We're trying to keep motorsports alive in the U.S., whether it's NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar, SCCA, USAC, all of us. We had drivers from each of those series and just shaking hands. The rest of our people, at NASCAR for instance, are doing the dirty work. Making sure racetracks are getting the tax breaks they need to stay alive and that we are keeping up with the EPA and emissions, that kind of stuff. That right there is the really, really simple 45,000-foot explanation of it.
So, if I get in a time machine and go back to little Kyle, racing go-karts with big bro Kurt in your Vegas cul-de-sac and say, "One day you will be lobbying in Washington, D.C."
I would have thought you were crazy. Anyone who knows anything about me should know by now I am certainly not exactly a good politician. I am also willing to admit to you now that I never went to any classes that had anything to do political science. I just told them how it is, how I think that it is, and we'll see what they do with that.
On Sunday at Bristol you scored your 54th career Cup Series win. So many of those wins were dominant. But Sunday you clearly weren't the best car and still bamboozled them. What feels better, stomping the field en route to a win or outsmarting the field en route to a win?
I think a win is a win! (laughs) When you're able to dominate and just kick everyone's butt and just wipe them out, I think that's when you feel the greatest, when you put it all together. When you steal one, like we kind of did Sunday, you almost feel bad.
Yeah, almost. You're like, 'Well, we shouldn't have won. We stole one. But s---, I'll take it. We got one and we're going home!
Richard Petty always says that, yes, he won 200 races, but the ones he really remembers and in a lot of cases is most famous for, are the ones he lost.
That's the maddest you ever are. You're in Joey Logano's position on Sunday and you're the best guy out there, the best guy all day, and you make a bad call or your take yourself out of position or somebody at the end sneaks up and pulls something on you in order to get the win from you. Those are the ones that really sting and burn for a long, long time. Over the last few years, I feel like I've been paid back a little bit for the ones I missed out on. There were so many of those, especially early in my career. Now I'm able to steal some away.
I mentioned you and big brother Kurt racing in the cul-de-sac as kids. You've raced against each other at NASCAR's highest level for 15 years now. Does it still feel good to keep him in your rearview mirror like you did at Bristol?
It feels awesome to outrun anybody, but to outrun your older brother always feels good. I know how good he is at Bristol (Kyle's eight wins and Kurt's six rank 1-2 among active drivers). But what also feels good is knowing how hard he and his team have worked and that they are getting closer and closer to finally getting their win this year.
But as feel good as that would be, you weren't going to let him get that win at your expense.
Afterward he said he would have wrecked you to have gotten that win.
Sure, but first you gotta catch me. (laughs)
How is your relationship with race fans now? Is it starting to change? You and I have talked about the boos so many times. But you continue to win so much, that's always been what turns the tide for guys. Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, all of them. Do you see more M&M's stuff in the stands than you used to?
There's certainly more people wearing M&M's stuff. Other guys, they have one color to look for. But there are red Kyle Busch shirts, black ones, yellow, green, I have the whole rainbow of colors covered. This year there's definitely been a change. You used to always watch Dale Jr. at the racetrack and how he would just get bombarded everywhere he went, having to have people walk with him to handle all of the fans wanting autographs and all of that. I'm not saying I'm at Dale Jr.'s level by any means, but I think this year has been a lot more hectic for me getting through the garage area. I am certainly getting run over by people and asked for more autographs than I have in years past.
I would assume a lot of that has to do with this season-long debate of your 200 wins versus Richard Petty's 200 wins. I'm not getting into all of that because I think it's a worn-out topic. But your Bristol win was your 54th Cup Series win. That ties you for 10th all time, with Richard's father, Lee Petty. Your next win will tie Rusty Wallace. Are you conscious of where you are on all these lists, lined up with all of these all-time legends?
I'm conscious of it because you and everyone else keeps bringing it up. (laughs) It's not a bad thing. It's an honor. But people keep asking me, 'Well, what do you think about it?' I think it's great and it's cool right now, but if I'm being honest ... s---, I'm looking at second or third on that wins list. That's what I want to shoot for. That's where I want to be. Let's talk about when I'm done, when I'm retired, and we'll see how cool it is wherever I end up.
I hate when people throw around the word "historic" too much. But a man who is leaping up the wins list like you are, that's historic.
If my career were over today due to unforeseen circumstances, then I would feel pretty good about what I've been able to do and accomplish. It's been an awesome ride. But we aren't done.
Going to Richmond this weekend. Since we've already talked about Hall of Fame names, here's some more. If you win Saturday night, you'll become just the fourth driver to win three in a row at Richmond. The others are Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison. Your seventh win there would tie you with Allison for second all time (Petty has 13). What is it about that place you love so much?
It reminds me a lot of the track in Vegas where I used to race Legends cars as a kid.
The Bullring, the one outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
That's the one. These cars are so different, obviously, but the rhythm feels the same.
It's amazing how your memory gets imprinted like that.
It's a feeling. Some of these we have in the Cup Series, they have a road racing background. We only run two road races a year, but they are really good at the road races because they have a feel. A way of knowing how to go fast at those places. There's an old racing saying "He's just a One Track Jack." There's a guy who is only good at one particular racetrack. He toured the whole schedule, but they knew that whenever they got to that one track, all of the sudden he's the damn man. That was always my biggest fear, to be one of those, to never be a One Track Jack.
Now you have 54 Cup wins on 23 different tracks, all of them but one.
Not bad, right? My goal has always been to be known as a racer who is diverse, someone who can go to any venue and any racetrack anywhere and compete for a win.
All Tracks Jack.
That's right. You got it.